Conversations About Tough Topics Vital for Children
On Monday (Aug. 10), the Oklahoma Institute for Child Advocacy held our weekly Child Advocacy Chat. This weekly teleconference on the Zoom platform allows leaders from various nonprofit and state organizations involved in youth issues to learn from each other.
This week, several faith-based leaders joined the call to discuss how the pandemic has impacted their services, the actions of their houses of worship, and how it has affected children who participate.
As I planned the discussion, I thought about the old adage about the taboo things which should not be discussed at the dinner table: “religion, politics, and sex.” With our modern times, it feels like that last topic has been replaced by another “s” word: science.
It seems as though science, especially surrounding health care and dealing with pandemic issues (wearing a mask, social distancing, whether or not to take a vaccination), has become the topic which people have grown the most hostile over when having a conversation, especially on social media. I have seen countless arguments regarding those issues, or whether COVID-19 is indeed as dangerous as health care experts and the mortality numbers indicate.
How we deal with difficult discussions about important issues is vital during stressful times. I have heard stories of longtime friendships being tested over an inability to discuss specific topics without bringing hostility into the dialogue. I myself have had to take deep breaths, and sometimes even walk away from conversation for a short time, before being able to answer or continue the discussion.
Tough conversations with children are especially meaningful right now. Such “dinner table” discussions help children grow as well-rounded human beings and not be fearful during times like we’ve endured when they could not go to school or visit friends and relatives. Hard topics need to be discussed to help these children when age-appropriate, so they can also understand how to conduct themselves when interacting with others.
Maintaining a level of civility is extremely critical, as this should be a lesson with how children learn to approach conflict with others as they grow older. Trust me; young people are watching and learning from us as we have these conversations.
Family meals, which have become harder to have due to busy schedules, are back on the table, so to speak, with the extra time we have had during the pandemic. Use that time to discuss important issues with family members. This is a valuable time to share beliefs, as well as to self-reflect. We need to do this all in a spirit of mutual respect where different opinions are considered, even when there is no agreement.
Remember, it is okay to disagree and not have to “win” every discussion. Not “having to win” every conversation is tough; I am trying to follow my own words. In this time of great division, it is essential to hear different sides of the discussion. Who knows? You might even change your personal opinion, as I have on some issues.
As additional time together will likely continue due to distance learning with blended school systems for in-person and virtual, please consider these points. They are just as important as any lesson they will learn from their schoolwork.
If you have these conversations now, your children will increase their ability to have those tough exchanges with others in a civil manner. Besides, they will develop better critical thinking skills to help them master the ability to make their points convincingly. Make the most of this time together, and this will help your family bonds as we move beyond COVID-19.